How many ways can a $30 million pro basketball contract change a brother? In the lard-based comedy The Cookout, the worst of the heart-blocking damage isn’t that Todd Anderson (Storm P) starts spending madly on a big-ass suburban mansion, or that a gold-digging girlfriend (Meagan Good) is out for the bounty. And it’s not that Todd’s own obstreperous extended family muscles in while the crew from the old hood looks for ways to chisel a cut. No, the worst is that Todd’s payday apparently sends comedy backward in time, and we’re in the 1970s, ethno-sitcom style: These Andersons in their out-of-date white, snooty gated community apparently confuse themselves with their forebears on The Jeffersons.
The movie, meanwhile, directed by Lance Rivera and written by a team including Queen Latifah (who also cameos), positions itself somewhere between a mild ”SNL” sketch built on racial stereotypes and a milder ”warmedy” along the lines of ”Soul Food.” The ”Cookout” is, in other words, the sloppy smorgasbord on a theme of African-American togetherness, signified by the Andersons’ yearly all-family backyard barbecue.
And it’s peppered, as these things are, with shtick from guest stars: Ja Rule as a gun-toting hustler, Tim Meadows as a conspiracy-minded crackpot, the rapper Eve as the girl next door. There is a certain pleasant frisson of shock to be had at the sight of Farrah Fawcett and Danny Glover playing the Andersons’ new neighbors. Glover mimes a man so denatured he doesn’t know he’s black. But shock turns to depression at comic opportunities squandered before the Andersons polish off the last of their grub.